and Gratifications and Internet Profiles:
Kayany and Yelsma (2000) cite reports estimating that 42 percent of the U.S. population, or 84 million adult Americans use the Internet. Of these 84 million, 37 million hook up daily from their homes. Their research reflects a time displacement effect, in that users experiences a reduction in time spent on other activities, including family interaction and domestic conversations. In her book, The Psychology of the Internet (1999), Wallace writes that time spent online causes a decrease in family communications, and that feelings of loneliness and depression began to surface over time. It seems logical to assume that continued use indicates a fairly important need fulfillment, especially in cases where continued use contributes to a negative atmosphere in the home.
Identifying the various needs involved is essential to understanding why a person chooses a medium. Interpersonal needs and media needs appear to overlap, however, making it difficult to determine cause and effect. Rubin (Papacharissi & Rubin, 2000) cites suggestions made by W. Schutz, who in 1966 proposed three interpersonal needs effecting all aspects of communications: affection, control and inclusion. In 1988, six primary motives for interpersonal communication were suggested: pleasure, affection, inclusion, escapism, relaxation and control (Rubin, Pearce & Barbato, 1988). In 1998, Flaherty, Pearce and Rubin (1998) reported that individuals used computers to satisfy three major needs: interpersonal needs (inclusion, affection, relaxation and control); traditional needs associated with media (social interaction, passing time, information, habit, entertainment); and new media needs (time shifting, meeting other individuals).
In a more recent study, Papacharissi and Rubin (2000) identified three other factors they believe influence Internet usage: contextual age (as opposed to using the limitations of chronological age); unwillingness to communicate (the tendency to avoid verbal communications due to factors including low self-esteem, introversion and apprehension); and media perceptions (the lack of social presence on the Internet, informational benefits, interpersonal benefits).
Ferguson and Perse (2000) studied the World Wide Web as an alternative to television viewing. In their study five principle factors were found concerning web motivation: entertainment, passing time, relaxation/escape and social information. Entertainment as a motive accounted for 42.1 percent of the respondents’ answers, passing time accounted for 8.6 percent, relaxation/escape accounting for 6.6 percent and social information accounted for 5.3 percent. While we are not certain as to the dimensions of television, the two media do display some similarities.
Kcrmar and Greene’s study (1999) considered whether or not violent television viewing was related to reported risk-taking behavior. Results indicate there is a positive relation between sensation-seeking motives and the viewing of sports and crime shows. Data also suggests a relation between adolescents’ behaviors involving substance abuse, reckless driving and delinquency and the viewing of violent media. There appears to be no relation between sensation-seeking motives and viewing of comedy shows (Krcmar & Greene). The research measured subgroups and characteristic and found correlations between types of sensation sought, predictable behaviors and consumption of various media. This information could be useful in studying online motives and profiles. Of course, a very important question is whether violent media influenced behavior or violent media satisfied a need for stimulation in the viewer.
Other recent studies support the suggestion that personality and social environment have an influence on needs and choices. Perceptions, socialization, psychological characteristics and attitudes have been found to influence behaviors and motives (Papacharissa & Rubin, 2000), and thereby can conceivably influence choices in media. Sensation seeking is considered by Krcmar to be one of the more relevant variables in this area of study. This concept is important for online studies because it is directly related to the need for stimulation and has measurable characteristics (Kcrmar & Greene, 1999).
In the research for his article, Exploring links between personality and media preferences, Weaver (1991) found three personality groups displaying substantial relations to media preferences. Individuals displaying ‘high neuroticism’ (anxious, emotional, socially isolated) showed strong preferences for news and information programs, drama and general films such as Mary Poppins and Wizard of Oz. This group also had a tendency to avoid light comedy and adventure. Individuals displaying ‘high psychoticism" (impulsive, nonconforming, unempathetic) characteristics showed strong preferences for violent programming, tragedy and drama. Weaver’s results for extroverted individuals were inconclusive in this study. One possible explanation for this may be that extroverts are highly active in social events, and therefore may have a majority of needs met through social relationships and activities.